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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / May 31, 2001

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Continued from page 2

The State Department has not pressed Japan on the records issue and has been adamant that the 1951 treaty is the last word on money claims. But the war crimes commission and its congressional backers could force a showdown on the issue.

A State Department spokeswoman, Debbie Daumit, said the department had asked Japan to open records on its macabre medical experiments on internees. She declined further comment unless the discussion was ''off the record.''

Leaders of Japan's Unit 731 managed to avoid war crimes prosecution compensation even though they injected anthrax, typhoid, and other deadly germs into Chinese nationals and Allied prisoners.

While fugitive Nazis with heinous backgrounds have been regularly stripped of US citizenship, Rosenbaum said his office has not deported or denaturalized any Japanese war criminals, though the names of several are loaded into Border Patrol databases. One visitor who turned up on the list of undesirables was detained in 1998 at Chicago's O'Hare airport and sent home.

Deep hostility remains ingrained in nations exploited by Imperial Japan. Activists involved in the POW effort say the State Department is coddling the Japanese because of Japan's trade imbalance with the United States.

''They said this sort of thing threatens commercial ties between the two countries,'' said Rhode Island's Patterson, a Republican, referring to the Japanese diplomats who met with state leaders. ''In my district there is a company that would fall under the rubric of that law.''

Japan's Boston-based consul general for New England, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said he wasn't aware of any implicit threat to shutter Toray Plastics, which employs 400 of Patterson's former constituents in North Kingstown. He said the mission to Rhode Island was meant not only to invoke the treaty's primacy in settling war claims, but to make the case that such claims threaten diplomatic ties between Washington and Tokyo.

''We knew that this effort would jeopardize the whole framework of this relationship,'' said Yamamoto, one of several consuls nationwide to head off a dozen other state initiatives.

Before coming to Boston, Yamamoto was chief political officer in South Korea, where Japanese troops had forced a generation of women into sex slavery, though it wasn't until 1980 that the serial rape victims, quaintly called ''comfort women,'' overcame their humiliation to demand justice.

''When I was talking with my [South Korean] counterpart, we thought it was important that the documents should come out and that historians should understand what really went on,'' he said.

Yet records that are secret and inaccessible often seem more important than they really are.

''You can imagine all sorts of things,'' said historian Edward Drea, a Japan specialist on the war crimes panel who has examined the fraction of Japanese intelligence records that were microfilmed before they were returned to Tokyo. Drea said the records returned to the Japanese were standard operational documents, and ''my notion is that we have quite a bit right here'' buried in US secret files.

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